U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS rules for grandmother in tax foreclosure takings fight; Jackson again pairs with Gorsuch

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Updated: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 94-year-old woman could pursue a claim that a tax foreclosure sale violated her rights under the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.

The Supreme Court ruled for grandmother Geraldine Tyler, 94, whose condo was seized by Hennepin County, Minnesota, to satisfy a $15,000 tax bill. The county sold the condo for $40,000 and kept all the money.

The May 25 decision was unanimous, although Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a concurrence addressing a second constitutional issue that was joined by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. The case is Tyler v. Hennepin County.

Tyler was partly represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm. She had alleged violations of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause and the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause.

The Supreme Court sided with Tyler on the takings argument without reaching the excessive fines issue.

“Tyler has stated a claim under the takings clause and is entitled to just compensation,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the Supreme Court.

“A taxpayer who loses her $40,000 house to the state to fulfill a $15,000 tax debt has made a far greater contribution to the public fisc than she owed,” Roberts said. “The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more.”

Other lawyers representing Tyler were from the law firms Guin, Stokes & Evans; Reinhardt Wendorf & Blanchfield; and Teske Katz.

In the concurrence joined by Jackson, Gorsuch said he agreed with the majority opinion on the takings issue but also addressed the excessive fines argument.

“Economic penalties imposed to deter willful noncompliance with the law are fines by any other name,” Gorsuch wrote. “And the Constitution has something to say about them: They cannot be excessive.”

It’s not the first time that Gorsuch and Jackson have been in agreement. SCOTUSblog author John Elwood has noted the pairings on Twitter.

Jackson filed a concurring opinion joined by Gorsuch in a ruling earlier this month for the Internal Revenue Service. And Jackson joined a dissent by Gorsuch in December, when the Supreme Court kept in place a Trump-era immigration policy.

Updated May 30 at 8:45 a.m. to include information on the law firms representing Geraldine Tyler.

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